In the simplest terms, office etiquette is defined as the code of conduct in business and in the workplace, whether that be in the physical or virtual workplace. Nevertheless, however simple the concept is, office etiquette is critically important in making a conducive workplace environment. Office etiquette is what makes people feel respected and at ease. This, in turn, can help minimise conflict, reduce feelings of stress, and promote well-being. It’s also important in building company culture and can even contribute to business success.

Many rules of office etiquette intersect with basic human decency. Still, there are a few subtleties that are critical to a workplace setting. Here are just a few etiquette tips to help make things run more smoothly in your own workplace:

Respect Everyone’s Time

Time is one of the most precious resources in the workplace. It doesn’t matter if you’re the CEO or the newest hire: your time is equally valuable. In the same manner, your clients’ time is also important. If you have a meeting, show up on schedule or a few minutes early. If you have committed to a deadline, whether that is an office meeting or virtual meeting, make sure you can deliver. If not, given ample warning and offer to help manage schedules to make up for the delay.

Do you feel as if you don’t have enough hours in your workday? If so, there are time management courses you can take. Consider enrolling in one not just to help you maximise your hours, but also to make you feel more confident in taking on bigger tasks. If you know how to manage your time, you’ll also be more productive.

Practice Good Communication Habits

When in the physical office, the only setting where it’s applicable to use a speakerphone in front of others is when you’re teleconferencing with them. Otherwise, use a headset for taking hands-free calls. If you really need to activate the speakerphone, find a private room to take the call. When on virtual meetings make sure you have the technology working properly and allow all your meeting members have audio on.

Also, make sure to put your own smartphone in silent mode or at least on vibrate. Like calls on speakerphone, a loud ringtone can distract your fellow employees.

For emails, make sure not to use all caps. It indicates aggressiveness as if you’re looking for an argument. Worse, it shows a lack of basic digital skills and etiquette. Your co-workers will be less than appreciative, much less your clients and business partners.

Clean Up Your Desk

Your desk is your personal space in the office so, to some extent, you can personalise it with a few individual items. However, don’t let personalisation get in the way of organisation. Make sure to keep things tidy and on balance, looking professional. If you’re sharing a desk or don’t have cubicles, don’t let your things overflow onto your co-worker’s side. Keeping your desk clean can help make you more productive because there are fewer distractions. Moreover, a neat desk also contributes to the entire workplace’s health and safety. If you are working from home, and conferencing from your desk, it is also important to keep the background simple to avoid distractions, and also to make sure any visible decoration is not in conflict with your company’s vision and ethos.

Minimise Noise and Distractions

Some people can work through loud noises; most, however, cannot. Try to keep telephone conversations at a reasonable volume (and again, don’t use the speakerphone); leave the room if you have to. Habits such as clicking a pen or tapping your desk with your fingers can also be distracting or even annoying. Try your best to stop these habits so your co-workers can concentrate. If you love to listen to music or podcasts as you work, use headphones or earphones but don’t turn up the volume too high. If you work from home, it is especially important to find a place in the home that will offer a quiet workplace, without interruptions, and a place where video conferencing can be done without distractions for you and for all the members joining the meeting.

Don’t Come to Work If You’re Sick

It’s easy to spread and transfer germs and viruses in a confined space like an office or any workplace. This is crucial at this time of COVID19. Do yourself and your colleagues a favour and stay home if you’re sick. Not only will you recover faster, you also avoid infecting others. If you’re not sick but have to sneeze or cough, cover your nose and mouth. Wash your hands or use a sanitiser afterwards and throw any used tissues into the trash can. Also make it a habit to clean your keyboard, phone, and desk regularly since these surfaces can gather a lot of harmful germs over time.


Office and workplace etiquette, at its core, is good manners and common courtesy. It’s a simple enough concept, but it can go a long way in making your workplace a productive one. Keep these tips in mind to foster a stimulating and dynamic atmosphere while working, that keeps you happy and healthy.